An Old Afrikaans War Song

"Bobbejaan" is literally "baboon".

Bobbejaan - South African Children's Songs - South Africa - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image


*This is more literally, "Baboon climbs the mountain to exasperate the farmers."


Elsje Potgieter wrote:

"It should be made very clear that the song refers to a baboon: 'bobbejaan' is from the Dutch word 'baviaan', meaning baboon. Baboons, of course, being indigenous in much of South Africa especially the old Cape Colony, and still annoying farmers today. Baboon can also be used as slang for a stupid/inferior person, but most often it refers purely to the animal.

A 'berg' is translated to 'mountain', not hill.

Furthermore: the song refers to the baboon exasperating/ annoying farmers -- although possible that the song originally had a different metaphorical meaning, I find it difficult to believe that it referred to 'killing' the farmers. The word 'vererg' is usually used when one is annoyed/a little bit irritated - but no violence is implicated."

Frances wrote regarding Elsje's comment: "Saying it's purely about baboons when it's been passed thru the generations, to me, is like saying that 'Mary Mary Quite Contrary' is about a garden of flowers ... but these rhymes and songs are always open to multiple interpretations."



Many thanks to Frances Turnbull for singing this song for us!

Sheet Music

Sheet Music - Bobbejaan

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Frances Turnbull from Musicaliti
for contributing and translating this song.

Thanks to Elsje Potgieter for commenting about the meaning of this song.

Image: The Bad Child's Book of Beasts

Baie dankie!